Japan Day 42

I slept in a bit but I felt pretty good this morning so I decided I would go ahead and go to Myokensan and Myokensan Temple in Kawanishi, where I used to live. That’s kind of misleading, because Kawanishi is huge and Myokensan (the mountain) is way up in the hills. In fact, you have to take the Nose Railway which looks like the Hankyu railway but is a subsidiary and requires you to find the right button on the ticket machine (all in Japanese) to buy a ¥580 ticket from Umeda. I even read that Noseden was intially created to make the trip to the Myokensan Temple easier.

In fact, we went by the golf practice area my not-really-my-uncle took me. So that means right behind that apartment on the right is where his prize-winning garden used to be.

A lot of it is a single track through the mountains, but it’s the area I used to ride my racing bicycle 20+ years ago.

Te end of the line is Myokenguchi where you get off and start walking for the cable car.

There’s a short path through the “town” where there’s one restaurant but not much else.

There was a small shrine and, of course, I took a picture.

On the map there was a shrine on the way, and there’s even a stone marker at the side of the road.

But seriously, it’s in the middle of nowhere.

And just past this farmhouse.

I’m not sure about Yoshikawa Yahata Jinja, but it was closed up.

You could see inside, and there was an old shrine inside.

Continuing on, I saw a coin rice milling machine. I still haven’t seen any magazine vending machines, though.

Very close to the ropeway I saw another gate. I think it might be abandoned.

Of course, it’s 10/31, so I had to investigate a bit.

Rather than return to the main road, I followed the road behind the shrine. I ended up ABOVE the cable car.

There was a helpful woman at the cable car who gave me a map of the paths up the mountain. I remembered I’d taken them both in the past. Turns out she’s the the cable car driver.

I decided to walk up which was supposed to take an hour, and did. I’m not sure how the older ladies (they had at least 10 years on me) made it faster than I did. It was a nasty walk, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So here’s my lunch, a can of coffee.

And off I go up the road.

The road gets narrower and there’s a gate.

There’s lots of shrines by the side of the road. This must have been the main way up in the past.

There are old, possibly abandoned houses on the road.

The first big shrine was downhill from the road.

To the left of the stairs is an area where people sit underneath the “waterfall” and pray.

Somehow I’m missing a picture of the main shrine, but I have a fuzzy picture of the alcove.

Back up to the road and there’s more shrines.

The higher up the hill, the more abandoned the shrines looked.

On the landing.

A small shrine to the left.

Another shrine to the right, and if you can squeeze through the main gate.

And here’s what appears to be the main shrine.

This is also up those steps.

If you see a rickety looking makeshift bridge and a tiny shrine across a rocky creek, do you go across?

When I say rickety, I mean makeshift and rickety.

I went.

Continuing on, I think this is the last temple.

I was wondering about all the white plastic in the creek and it turns out it’s the bags of rocks used to hold up the hillside decomposing.

There’s more of the waterfalls to pray under.

Water from the creek is redirected to make “waterfalls”.

After this the road gets rocky.

And instead of bags of rocks there were cages of rocks.

But there’s still shrines and I wonder if they’re graves.

It gets rocker and steep as heck.

I think this is where I texted my sister and told her I was freezing and still sweating through my shirt and pants. 

So close to the top!

It’s steep enough that the house has a tramway to get things down the hill.

At the end of the trail there’s a sign I don’t believe. 1.8km? That’s only 1mi and 626ft. But it was 410m of rise, or 1,345ft up.

Finally, at the top, where there’s a bus stop and a parking lot. This is the path towards Myokensan Temple. Still up.

There’s a little shop right at the bottom of the path up.

Like I said, up.

After this guy, I decided to quit taking pictures of old famous guys I didn’t recognize.

And horses. There were four for some reason.

At this high point is this glass structure. I’m sure there’s some meaning to it.

There’s a clear view of Osaka from the top, even though it was a bit hazy.

I could hear chanting from the temple. Nichiren seems quite popular.

Down past the bell.

There’s a row of temples and rest houses.

This is the temple where they were chanting.

So, after getting a little lost, I thought it was time to find my way to the chairlift and then the ropeway back down. But when I got to the chairlift a guy told me it wasn’t that steep and it was pretty slow. I remember taking it with my ex-fiancée on a date where it started raining. That was a long time ago. Now, I decided just to walk my sad ass down the road by myself.

The road lead to cemeteries and a temple next to them.

And then more cemeteries.

You can see the chair lift and how it doesn’t really go up very fast.

The last bit to the cable car was pretty steep.

If you remember the picture of the cable car, you can see it doesn’t go very far. So I decided I could just walk down. After walking up the hill from the cable car to the chair lift, I decided I couldn’t walk uphill much further and ended up taking the chairlift. It did bring back memories. Like the memory that it was nice being with Yūko, but the chairlift was otherwise pretty boring.

You’ll notice I ended up back at the parking lot. I decided I needed to add to my lunch and had a Coke before I walked down.

I realized that the trip down was steep as hell and I should have just taken the damn cable car.

See this nice paved slope? That doesn’t last for very long.

Another thing I noticed is that the creek bed looks like it would have water the whole way down, but at the top it’s dry. Then there’s a spring. Then it’s dry again. Then there’s a spring. Then you can hear the gentle sound of water trickling down the slope which, if I’ve had a big bottle of Coke, can make me need to use the bathroom.

On the way down I saw a shrine next to a hole in the mountain. I also saw several giant Asian wasps so I didn’t poke my head in the hole.

And I made it down to the bottom of the cable car, and the public toilet. Thank the gods. 61 minutes up and 34 minutes down.

Down the hill and thank goodness I saw a postman and asked him directions. I was about to turn the wrong way down the road.

I wonder if they’re growing a second crop.

And I thought these bloomed in the middle of the summer. They do in the US.

And it’s persimmon season.

I got back on the train and went back to the hotel. I guess I had a Snicker’s bar as a snack. For dinner I decided to go back to the Darimaru building (the South Station Building now) since I won a ¥300 coupon the other night. I’d been thinking of tempura, so I found a ¥2,100 tempura shop.

They bring things out as they’re ready and that’s not a good thing for a guy who went up and down a mountain had such an odd lunch.

Just some sushi.

Then just some shrimp.

Then some fish with miso soup and just a little rice.

Mushrooms and sweet potato.

Chawanmushi (I already ate the shellfish out of it).

Finally, something I can’t remember the name of that wasn’t very good. In fact, the whole experience was so-so. The best part is that I got to try for another prize and this time I got a ¥500 coupon.

Speaking of disappointments, today was the opening of Eki Marché in the JR station closest to the hotel. I stood in line for 20 minutes to get a doughnut. As you can imagine, it would take a lot for a doughnut to be worth a 20 minute wait, and I think I’d rather have had one from Mr. Donut. By the end I thought it was OK, but still, not real sure if I’d wait that long for a matcha doughnut from Chichūjo Doughnuts.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Osaka before I leave for Maebashi. My plans are to do laundry and pack my crap up. It probably won’t take all day but I’m generally boring and I’m not planning on doing much more. Maybe I’ll see some things around the station, but that’s about it.

Japan Day 41

This morning started slowly. I got up and read my email (of course) and found out how to sign up for next year’s health insurance. It’s something we do at work this time every year, and every year I’m usually in Japan until the last day or so. This time I’m out the whole time, so I had to get a co-worker to figure out how I can select things remotely.

Then it was off to the train station to change my tickets. Like I said yesterday, my plans have changed and so I had to get my complicated train ticket and exchange it for a ticket just to Tokyo. I was trying to decide whether to meet my sister in Tokyo or my mom in Maebashi. Maebashi seemed a lot more expensive on the train so I decided to go straight to Tokyo but then I found out that there are no hotel rooms open this weekend. So, after several calls home, I decided to go to Maebashi after all. Besides, instead of taking the Shinkansen (1:41 and ¥4,800), I can take the regular train (2:25 and ¥1,890).

So after all that, I had to decide what to do today. I was thinking of going to Myokensan up in the mountains, or Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine to the south. It was a cloudy morning, so I headed south. I got a map at the Tourist Information bureau and the only one they had left was in English. After taking an odd train to Tennoji, it was onto the Hankai Tramway (a streetcar, really).

My first stop was Bandaiike Park which turned out to have very little historic value but was interesting for other reasons. First, the houses nearby were HUGE. This first one has a FULL SIZE garage attached, unlike most places in Japan.

I don’t know if these pictures fully express the size or the unusual construction of this house.

The neighborhood was full of things that looked a little more ostentatious than I’ve seen. Plus it’s in a flat area, not too far from the poorest area I’ve seen in Japan.

The lake was pretty and lots of people were exercising nearby. They’re probably the idle rich.

You know me, a sucker for shrines. This is just something that was on the walkway in the middle of the lake.

And the other interesting thing was my lunch. I saw a place that was pretty crowded with a Mercedes-Benz idling in front. I walked by an came back a half-hour later after finding nothing else interesting food-wise. This was ¥600!

Another ¥100 and I got coffee!

I had stomach problems later in the afternoon, but I can’t really blame lunch. It seemed too quick for that.

The 30-minutes I mentioned was spent going to Tezukayama Tumulus, a tomb from the early fifth century!

Then it was off to Sumiyoshi-taisha, which i think is the oldest shrine in Japan. That, of course, means lots of temples and shrines. Like Tofukuji Temple

Or Housen-ji Temple with thirteen stone images of the Buddha which is rare in Japan according to the map. The temple itself didn’t appear to be open, but a behind some dirty glass on the left (the short roof) were the Buddhas.

I took this picture through a cracked pane.

Then it was off to find the grounds of Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine. By this time my stomach had started gurgling and I was trying my best to ignore it. You know, the kind of gurgling that says, “I’m glad I’m going to a tourist spot that must have public restrooms!”

And, of course, I’m going in through the back door again.

Right by the back door is the Nankun Shrine which is supposed to be lucky for business. They sell maneki neko here. There’s all sorts of superstitions about coming here every month for four years and buying the small maneki neko and then trading the small ones for a large one for greater luck in business.

This is the main shrine (the First Hongu). At this point I’m heading towards the main entrance.

Inside the main entrance is the taikobashi curved bridge. It’s pretty darn steep.

And there are lots of lanterns outside.

Here’s the main entrance.

Which leads to the bridge.

And the main entrance to the grounds, and this guy on the left who wouldn’t get out of the picture. He just kept standing around.

The Third Hongu.

The Fourth Hongu.

The Second Hongu.

And, of course this is the season for chrysanthemums!

The First Hongu is the main shrine from earlier and I believe this is when I thanked the gods that Japan has public restrooms. I should have thanked them for having CLEAN public restrooms.

On the way back I saw several wedding parties taking pictures.

There are lots of shrines on the grounds.

I’m not sure what this is.

I’m not sure what all they even are enshrining.

These appear to be “mere storehouses”.

I think this is a place to worship this side of this big tree.

I wonder if this is the famous giant cinnamon tree. The map is not very clear.

Another tree to worship?

And I feel like I’m just cataloging shrines at this point.

This definitely is a storehouse, but the sign is in complicated Japanese. One of these days I should try studying historical Japanese.

Looking at the map, I think this is Tanekashi Shrine where you’re supposed to go first. There were seats inside and it looked quite new and different than most other shrines I’ve seen.

This is Ohwatatsumi (Daikai) Shrine. I’ve seen mention that this is even older than the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine. It has lots of stories tied to the sea.

It also has an interesting gate inside the shrine and a door to who knows what treasures?

The entrance to Ohwatatsumi Shrine is what I expect a grand old shrine entrance to look like.

This is the northwest-ish corner of Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine

There are other shrines and temples in the area, but I figured I better not push my luck and headed back to the hotel. I’m feeling better but I did take a nap. Instead of heading out to dinner, I went out to the fancy bakery below the Ritz-Carlton and had a salmon sandwich and some savory pastries.

And there it is. If I’m feeling better tomorrow, it’s up to Myokensan!

Japan Day 40

Today I took a trip to Yamazaki Station in Kyoto Prefecture to visit the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery. Yamazaki Station is barely in Kyoto Prefecture and everything I saw today was in Osaka Prefecture. Yamazaki itself is in Osaka Prefecture.

But seriously, there’s NOTHING near Yamazaki Station.

Very close by is this shrine. I can’t read the name of it and it’s probably the Rikyu Hachiman-gū Shrine.

As is the case lately, I came in through the side gate.

Yesterday it was a mystery cow; today it’s a horse.

I kept going down the street and found Seki Daimyojin Shrine that had all sorts of signs. In fact, one of the signs seemed to indicate a historic path between Osaka and Kyoto.

But really, it was just sent me down a neighborhood street.

Here’s the signs I kept seeing, and of course it led me straight to…

A factory?

Soon enough I found my way back into a neighborhood. I also saw a speed trap but I figured taking pictures of cops was pushing my luck.

I checked Google maps to make sure I was headed the right direction and I saw a temple sign on the map. It was on the way to Minase Jing? Shrine, but the temple was closed.

 Minase Jing? Shrine was fairly impressive, and it’s an Imperial Shrine.

As I was about to leave I noticed more and more people lining up to get water out of a boring looking tap.

It turns out that the spring that feeds the Suntory Distillery is also feeds the spring that comes out of the water tap. I also read that famous tea ceremony schools hold tea ceremonies here.

I headed back towards my real destination of the day, the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery. I used to think Japanese whisky was awful but Suntory makes some tasty single-malt whiskies.

I got there fairly early and they let me go on the 1PM tour rather than the 2PM tour I signed up for. There are old stills outside of the factory.

Here’s two important guys I wasn’t paying enough attention to.

There’s a small museum downstairs that you can get into almost any time, but the real fun comes when you sign up for the hour-long tour. You have to make reservations and I had to make reservations a week in advance.

Inside there’s all the cooking vats. I don’t know much about how to make distilled spirits so I won’t pretend.

And various stills of different styles to produce different distillate. You can just see the bulby one on the very left. I took a whole year of Physical Chemistry, one of the hardest classes I’ve taken, and most of it was about distilleries.

Non-temperature controlled casks.

Cask Number 1! (I think it’s just for show).

I’m not sure what the black barrels are.

Here’s some of the special Yamazaki spring water in their garden behind the plant.

Some snacks to eat with the whisky.

The first sample was their new young single-malt they sell for “high-balls”. They had it with seltzer and ice with a side of their spring water. After that they had Yamazaki 12 and Hakushu 12 for tasting with water and ice. I asked for it straight to taste it. Hakushu has more of a sweet flavor, but Ithink I prefer the Yamazaki.

Behind the factory is a shrine. You have to go through the main gate, but I was told you can just tell them you’re going to the shrine and they’ll let you through the factory.

There’s also a “tasting room” where you can taste various single-malt Scotch whiskies and also all the Suntory products. I was looking at the Yamazaki 25 for a while since it’s 10x the price of the Yamazaki 12 and I figured this would be my only chance to try it. I paid ¥2,300 (almost $30) for 15ml. In comparison, a normal “shot” or “jigger” is 1½ oz or about 45ml. It was sweet and complex and had more flavor than the Yamazaki 12. I’m not sure I can describe it properly but I really enjoyed it.

 On the way back I got a picture of the Meiji factory that has a giant fake chocolate bar on the side of it. It’s somewhere not very close to Takatsuki station.

So, in reality, I drank my lunch today. And it was an expensive lunch as well. But I also found a Starbucks close to the hotel that wasn’t on Google maps and had a muffin as well. I spent a bunch of time trying to get the free wifi to work but I never was successful.

For dinner I decided to get okonomiyaki. The hotel suggested a place in the basement of Harbis Plaza, very close by, and under the Ritz-Carlton. There were a lot of restaurants down there.

I got the autumn special.

I also got some teppan gyoza. It’s flat grilled gyoza and quite tasty. Certainly worth the ¥2,570.

I also found out that our friends in Toyama have to go to a funeral and I have to redo a bunch of my travel plans at for the end of this week. I found out in the middle of the day when I was away from my computer and any information. I’ll have to figure out what to do tomorrow morning. More excitement!

Japan Day 39

It’s another rainy day and my photographs are sort of blurry. Ah well. I figured I’d take it easy today and I was looking for a nice, covered place to go. I knew I should get out of Umeda because it was going to get crowded. So I went to Tenjinbashisuji shopping street. I decided to start at the south end which was near Minamimorimachi. You have to walk a bit south to get to the end of the shopping street.

There’s a little more to the south, but it didn’t look like all that much more.

Back to the shopping street.

Of course, as soon as I got into the shopping street I saw people lining up somewhere to the east. I think it’s a rakugo theatre.

And just to the south of that is one of the entrances to Osaka Temmangū Shrine.

If you go all the way through the shrine, you can get to the main gate. Instead of warriors at the gate, there’s guys who look like tow of the seven lucky gods. I couldn’t get a picture because of the glare.

This is the main shrine.

And several to the side. The grounds are pretty large and there’s a parking lot on the grounds.

Here’s a blurry picture of a cow. I’m not sure what that’s about.

Lots of offerings of saké, though.

One of the first shops I saw on the way back in was a fabric store. This (fuzzy) picture is for my sister.

There were different colored gates down the shopping street.

And I swear there were a half-dozen massage places.

The lady bug mud signify the end of the gates.

There was a big intersection and the railway crossed through the shopping street. A young guy was walking his grandmother down the street. The sushi place had live fish in the tank.

Closer  to the north end of the shopping street things got narrower.

This was a side street I should have taken later in the day.

Compare the side entrance to the picture of the main entrance. I took a few days ago.

The shopping street does cross a few major streets. On each side there’s something over the entrance.

I thought I was going to have to look for the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, but it was right at the northern end of the shopping street. You go in the building and go up to the eighth floor. You can see the shopping street out the window. (The weather got nice after I left the museum.)

It wasn’t raining inside, but the pictures are still fuzzy. There’s a rebuilt version of an Osaka neighborhood.

You can rent kimonos to walk around the “town” (just the two streets).

There’s a viewing area and then it’s down into the model. There’s an audio guide you can get of the town and the shops have things inside to look at.

This is a model of the old building methods.

The next area had dioramas of Osaka through the ages.

There’s a spoken word show if you wait long enough. An elderly woman talks about growing up before and after WWII.

 The dioramas drop down and a scene of the living space is shown. I didn’t take pictures of all of the dioramas, but it’s pretty interesting.

I decided to walk to Mos Burger, which is on the edge of Umeda. Turns out that taking the subway would’t have gained me all that much anyway, and the rain had stopped. I found this guy on the way back, next to the huge Korean Cultural building.

Lunch at Mos Burger.

I went back to the hotel and took a nap. I’m not sure I’ve recovered from it. I also decided to do something silly: eat at the old Mexican restaurant we used to go to. This cost me ¥1,880. The taco filling was entirely guacamole!

They were having some sort of contest that they like to do in Japan. You spin the thing and a marble comes out. I didn’t win anything there. But there’s a second-chance on the left side where you enter in a number into an iPad and I got a discount coupon for ¥300!

And that was my day. Tomorrow I tour the Suntory Yamazaki distillery.

Japan Day 38

I was still tired this morning. I think it’s probably because of the onsen yesterday, but I told my sister it feels like I’ve been walking all day, every day, for a month-and-a-half. She said, “Because you have, Forrest.” I even forgot to call home before I left the hotel. Fortunately, there are apps that let you use Google Voice using only data on your iPhone (Talkatone).

I decided to go to the Open-Air Museum of Old Japanese Farm Houses in Hattori Ryokuchi Park in Toyonaka City. I’ve been putting it off, thinking, “Hey, my grandma had an old Japanese Farm House and I’ve even stayed there in the past.” But then I realized that my cousin had torn both houses down.

All my pictures today are from my iPhone. For some reason I felt too lazy to take my other camera out of my bag.

On the way to the subway, I saw a looong line at one of the department store basement food stores. This one, I think, is Daimaru. I wonder what they were getting. I was tempted to line up just to be more Japanese.

I got a subway day pass and headed for the park. There’s a path from the closest subway station to the park. If you look at the sign, there was an autumn fair going on.

The park is pretty big and has lots of areas with various activities going on. There’s even a horse riding area that I never got to.

In one of the open areas they were doing whatever this is. Bike Trial riding, I think. This little kid was pretty good at it.

There was an announcement of heavy machinery demonstrations. They let little kids onto the machines. The garbage truck was just arriving.

Ashiya University had their solar car, plus two smaller solar cars for kids to ride around on.

I didn’t take pictures of the Segway rides, or the slack-line, or lots of other things for kids to try out.

This is the entrance to the Open-Air Museum of Old Japanese Farm Houses. The gate is an old gate moved to the museum.

All of the houses (this is actually a barn) were actual houses moved here to the museum. I didn’t take a picture of the first house because they were having a woodwind recital inside. I’m also not going to say too much about the houses because I’d just be copying it from the pamphlets.

There were things going on in the houses (lots of activities for kids) and there were even little old ladies starting  cooking fires. Just like my grandma’s house, with grandmas inside!

This was a tea house and I almost stopped in for some green tea. But I don’t really know the procedure.

This is a kabuki stage.

There were looms in one of the houses where kids could try weaving cloth from silkworm thread (or so I’m guessing).

I took this picture because I remember this kind of construction in my grandma’s house.

They were even demonstrating spinning silk thread.

This is a huge house from Shirakawa where extended families would live together. It’s complicated, and you should look it up if you’re interested. The upper floors were used for growing silkworms.

I headed back into the park and these pictures can’t show you how steep this hill is.

The all-day ticket actually stopped at Esaka, and I had to pay extra to get from Esaka to Hattori Ryukuchi-koenmae. I bought another ticket to get back, and got off. I remember there were guys who would hang out in Esaka since, back in the day, the only Osaka Tokyu Hands was in Esaka. But Esaka didn’t look that inviting so I just looked at my iPhone map and found something interesting.

Yeah, it says, “Asahi Beer”. It’s not listed in any of the tourist guides so I figured it was just a factory (as it was) but I decided it was time for an adventure.

So it was off through the neighborhoods.

I found a rice paddy in the middle of all the buildings.

It was a long walk with not too much to see but I found a surf shop! The one thing my brother-in-law wanted me to look for was the fancy new Japanese stretch neoprene.

I tried calling my sister but the data throughput kind of sucked in that area. She wanted some fabric samples and felt funny about asking for them. Turns out this guy is the real deal and makes wetsuits upstairs and gave me some scraps for samples.

When I got to the train station at Suita, I realized I’d misread the map and there wasn’t any subway there. So my day pass was worthless to me.

I found a shrine, of course, right next to Hankyu Suita Station. This is Izudono-gū Shrine.

They were having a chrysanthemum display, and it’s the season for chrysanthemum displays.

You can see the only three people who were at the shrine. I asked them about how to get back to the subway or to Umeda, and they told me that it was incredibly far to get back to where I started much less walk to Umeda. Japanese people don’t go walking through the city like I do. They were really nice and helpful and kept me from going to the old Expo ’70 site because there’s nothing to see there except more chrysanthemums. They also told me the closest thing that would let me use my day pass would be back at Esaka.

This is Kanzakigawa, the first of two rivers I crossed walking back to Umeda. I walked about five hours, and at 3 miles per hour that’s fifteen miles. I have no idea if that’s accurate and I really wanted to rest today.

I couldn’t find a restaurant so here’s my lunch. I really have to plan my trips better.

Somewhere in the middle of my trip I saw this on my map. A museum in the middle of the river! But I figured the real museum is on land.

I went a long ways down this narrow sidewalk next to a highway.

The sidewalk got even narrower but I finally got to the museum.

I think this says that the museum is closed starting 4/1/2012.

Ah well, time to cross Yodogawa River.

This picture is for my sister, a sign saying, “Start, Osaka 30K.”

Still a ways to Umeda.

There were a lot of people in the restaurants in Umeda. I even had to wait to get into our favorite green tea restaurant, Toki. They had potato parfait and I couldn’t read the kanji so I tried it. I think I’m going back to just get the more traditional desserts soon.

I got back to the hotel and passed out in the chair in the room. No, the chair isn’t very comfortable, but I was TIRED. It was a lot more humid than you’d expect.

For dinner I was trying to decide where to go and I though, I have a day pass, it cost me ¥600, and I’ve only used about ¥230 on it. But I did notice there was a Bikkuri Donkey in Esaka as well as Dotonbori and I could finally have dinner at the place I saw on TV a month or so ago. So off it was to Esaka.

The menu is built into a huge window shutter and I had a hard time deciphering it. But I finally just asked and got the hamburger with cheese and potato salad inside.

Oh, and a beer.

The TV show I saw was one where they had to rank the popularity of the items on the menu. They’d try to find the highest ranking item, order it, and then see where it actually ranked. Everything they tried they kept saying was really good. Well, this is the best tasting hamburger steak I’ve had in Japan and it was pretty cheap. The beer was cheap and I wouldn’t order it again. The bitterness tasted almost medicinal.

It’s supposed to rain tomorrow and I already have plans. I want to see the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living and Japan’s longest 2.6km (~1.6 miles) shopping street. I’m hoping the shopping street is covered.

Japan Day 37

Please forgive today’s post if it’s incoherent. It’ll get obvious what I did to become incoherent. I’m also deleting a lot of pictures today because they’re repetitious. Like lots of ropeway and cable car pictures that all look alike. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today I didn’t know what to do, so I figured I’d go to Kobe.

I got there and found the tourist bureau and got the English-language information from them. Then I was gripped by indecision and stood outside the office for a while and started walking back and forth until I decided to just get on the train and go back two stations and take a bus, cable-car, bus, and ropeway to get to Arima Onsen. Here’s the first bus.

Of course, I’m an idiot and I got off the bus too early. It was only about 700m walking but about 50m (165ft) of elevation gain.

So the second part of the trip is the Rokko Cable car.

Yep, it’s two cars attached by a cable. Here’s a picture of the small section of rail where they pass each other.

Here’s the car I rode in the lower station.

And in the upper station.

I guess it’s a good way as any to get up a steep hill.

You only have a short time to transfer to the bus and, of course, I spent too much time getting change and taking these pictures and 


Fortunately, I only had to wait twenty minutes. There was more time to connect to the ropeway from the bus so I could go up and try to find the high point on Mt. Rokko. I thought this was the top.

I didn’t stop at any of the attractions atop Mt. Rokko, including a Music Box Museum that had pamphlets back in Hamamatsu at the Musical Instruments museum.

I was told the highest spot was this weird dome.

And I remember all the towers from when I rode my bike up to the top of Mt. Rokko. Twice. I was young and stupid. I did it during the summer and it was hot at the bottom and freezing at the top. I thought this was the top. I think this area is 880m (about 2900ft) above where I started.

I took some more pictures because it looked like it was clearing up.

This is the ropeway.

Actually, I think this is supposed to be the top of Mt. Rokko, where that tower is.

The next three pictures are of the deepest valley in the Mt. Rokko area.

And finally, it drops straight down into the Arima Onsen area. 

Of course the ropeway ends in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately the town of Arima is downhill.

I didn’t even bother going to any shrines or temples.

So there’s two main hot springs where you can just go in and have a soak, KInsen and Ginsen. Kinsen is “ferruginous, sodium chloride, saline, high temperature” while Ginsen has two: “carbon dioxide spring (carbonic acid spring)” and “radioactive spring (radium spring).” Of course indecision hit. I wanted to go to the carbonic acid but avoid the radioactive and finally ended up just going to Kinsen. Turns out Ginsen was closed for the week.

The 42°C (107.6°F) bath wasn’t quite hot enough but the 44°C (111.2°F) was actually painful. Of course I sat in the hotter one for a while. I got out and have been only semi-coherent for the rest of the day.

Here’s all the things I bought at Kinsen. Arima Cider, a towel, a comb, and access to the bath.

The Arima cider was not that sweet and pretty good. Especially after taking hot bath. 

I’ve actually never been to Arima and it was a nice traditional hot spring town that’s been in existence since the 500’s or so. Yeah, three digits.

You wouldn’t think cars would use this street.

I missed lunch again, and about 3:30 I had a matcha soft ice cream cone. Lots of guys were drinking beer or at a stand-up bar having beer or sake, but I figured that would just knock me out.

I took the bus straight back to Umeda station. It was a bit more expensive, but I didn’t have to change buses or trains and I knew even if I fell asleep I’d get woken up when we arrived back at Umeda.

This is a picture near the bus stop and I knew this would be a million dollar picture after the fall colors change.

On the way back I saw this Friendly and I think this is one where I went on a date in the past with my old fiancée.

I went out to find dinner and I figured I’d try the new South Station building (the Daimaru) and almost went to the Mexican restaurant, Chico’s and Charlie’s. We used to go all the time back when I lived in Japan. I ended up going back to the Yodobashi Camera and the all-you-can-eat bread place, because nobody was lining up anywhere in the South Station building but they were at “Baqet”.

So that’s it for today. I wonder what I’ll do tomorrow.

Japan Day 36

My timing is getting off. I started doing laundry when I got back to the hotel after 5PM and didn’t finish until 9PM. I guess it takes about 40 minutes to wash and 30-45 minutes to dry. Since I was going to wash ALL my pants, I had two loads to do. There’s no going to the laundry room pantsless. That’s something to do at home.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Today i decided to go to the Tennoji area to see Shitennoji Temple. I knew there must be a lot of people visiting the area when I found a tourist bureau in the Tennoji train station. There’s only three offices of the tourist bureau in Osaka. I was told that the Shin-Sekai area around the Tsutenkaku Tower is a lot safer than it was 20 years ago, so I was going to check that out as well.

But I still needed coffee even after my late start this morning and so it was off to Mister Donut. There was a line and people were buying boxes and boxes of doughnuts. This weekend is ¥100 doughnuts and Osaka people love bargains.

There are small temples everywhere you see just walking down the street in this area.

The first temple I saw was Tennoji Koshindo Temple.

This was busier than the pictures show. Lots of elderly people all throughout the temple grounds. This is the main temple. I could hear chanting in the temple. In fact, most of the temples today had chanting or reading of the sutras.

There was some sort of festival going on and maybe this is the day to eat lucky konnyaku. I’m not familiar with the traditions.

There were seeds and nuts and another vendor selling spice. I didn’t realize this until just now, but the “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys are from here.

Walking outside Shitennoji Koshindo Temple, you can see Shitennoji Temple.

This is a busy road you cross to get to the temple grounds.

This is the main temple grounds, protected by two warriors.

Here’s another view showing the pagoda.

A monk and a prayer wheel.

This is the large gate leading into the the area.

A bell tower, I think. I kept hearing bells and chanting.

This is something my mom told me about, the pool full of turtles.

Temple, chanting.

There are a lot of temple buildings on the grounds of Shittenoji Temple.

I’m not sure what this is, but it held a shrine and burning candles and incense.

Another view of the pagoda. You could get into the inner area, but I was too cheap to pay the several hundred yen to see this or the Japanese garden.

This is the gate leading to the whole complex. A traditional traveling monk is begging outside the gate. You can see the more ornate gate inside. Shitennoji was one of the less busy temples I saw today.

I started heading towards Shin-Sekai, avoiding the Tennoji Zoo. Back when I lived in Japan I went to see a movie (I think it was Total Recall) somewhere in this area. I passed through the zoo grounds and I saw the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen in a zoo, a crazed orangutan with a growth on it’s head swinging around screaming.

In any case, I could see Tsutenkaku Tower in the distance.

Walking down the busy street, I saw this huge glass and metal structure and two warriors or demons underneath. There were people streaming in and out of this area. Usually something that modern means it’s an odd new religion, so I was busily trying to get my iPhone to tell me what the heck it was.

Turns out this is Isshinji Temple

This is the main Temple and has the graves of historic kabuki figures and was started after the founder of the Jodo sect stopped in the area.

The other rather odd thing is the seven Okotsubustu, statues of the Buddha made out of the cremated remains of 150,000-200,000 people per statue. There are at least two in this building.

There are at least five in this building. There’s constant chanting and the smoke is incense burning.

There was also another “round” building filled with lighted candles.

I saw on the map that Yasui Jinja Shrine was close by. I somehow made it in without going up these stairs.

It was a smaller shrine.

The area near Yasui Jinja Shrine is known for the nanasaka, or seven slopes. This one is Tenjinsaka.

To the left, where you see the flags, was a small temple. I was looking for Kiyomizudera Temple (not the famous one in Kyoto, but the local one) but this wasn’t it.

Walking through the neighborhood, through some back alleyways towards a large cemetery and then wedged past something that looked like a storage area was Kiyomizudera Temple.

After that I pressed on towards Shin-Sekai. I was pretty sure I was getting closer as the streets looked seedier. Everything was just blank buildings under the freeway, but finally I found a bus. 

And the west entrance to the zoo.

And the first thing that looked promising was a kabuki theatre.

Sure enough, down that street was the Tsutenkaku Tower.

And a sign announcing Shin-Sekai. One thing I don’t think I took pictures of is all the Billiken. Like I said yesterday, they confuse me.

Oh, hey, there’s a Billiken to the left.

This is Jan-Jan Yokocho street where women would play the shamisen, making the jan-jan sound to beckon customers.

There was a shogi club where people were playing the Japanese version of chess.

Jan-jan yokocho from the other side.

I think this is the famous kushikatsu restaurant where there are signs against double-dipping.

The giant blowfish of Shinsekai. I was hungry, but everything looked a little sketchy and I wasn’t brave enough to go anywhere.

Spa World, which I saw mentioned somewhere. No real idea what it is.

No real idea about this either.

So then i twas off to Nipponbashi. I was emailed a map of the ham radio stores by one of my old co-workers while I was in Mr. Donut earlier in the day. Unfortunately I think Thursday is the day they’re all closed.

I did find an interesting “Electronics Department Store” Silicon House Kyohritsu. I cut off the top as I was trying to take the picture while crossing a busy street. They had U.S. SparkFun kits as well as local kits. I was interested in the do-it-yourself speaker cabinets and amplifiers.

Here’s another look down Sakaisuji Avenue and Den-Den Town.

Here’s Hirota Jinja Shrine, a short way from Den-Den Town.

My final stop in the area was Imamiya Ebisu Jinja Shrine. I think this is a popular shrine for merchants. I was expecting more to it, and maybe a few more people.

Then it was back to Shin-Imamiya Station. I saw a few homeless guys, a few drunks peeing, and just “normal neighborhood people” staggering around in the streets. I would not suggest taking the route I took to Shin-Imamiya station. I had to walk all the way around the station to find the entrance and the whole of the neighborhood was a little sketchy.

Then it was back to Umeda. I figured it was about time for me to wash my jeans again and while I was at it I might as well buy a new pair from Uniqlo and wash those too. Well, the current sale is on pants, so I bought some khakis which will probably be too small for me when I get back to the US and start eating like a pig again and a pair of jeans which the guy said would shrink but didn’t, so they feel too big for me. But they’ll probably fit after I start eating again. Uniqlo hems pants for free, but it takes some time, so I went and had some cake. The bear is done in chocolate & strawberry syrup. (Did I mention lunch ended up being a rice ball at Lawson?)

So, after getting my pants and a t-shirt I ordered, I went back to the hotel and started my laundry. By the time I was ALMOST finished, it was 8:30 and I hadn’t eaten dinner yet. I finally decided just to try the Garden Café where I have breakfast in the hotel. There’s never many people there for dinner. I asked for suggestions and the woman suggested the steak.

The steak wasn’t the best, but it was good enough. The fries were cooked earlier and the soup seemed like it was reconstituted instant, but I’d get it again. Especially if I’m too busy to go anywhere else.

 The big drawback is that there’s no non-smoking area at night, so you just have to hope nobody sits near you and starts to smoke.

And there you have it. I thought I’d just be back in a couple of hours but I was out all day. And it’s past my bedtime again. Oh well.

Japan Day 35

My friend told me I had too many pictures and today isn’t going to be any different. I went to the Ando Momofuku Ramen Museum, walked around Ikeda, and then walked to where I was meeting several co-workers for dinner. Then when I got back the weird loud noise in my room, that I’ve had the past two nights, returned and it came from my Washlet! I think it’s water hammer, and the plumber agreed. They changed my room and I’m way behind. Plus, some dumb Mac program is making lots of connections to the intarwebs and the hotel doesn’t seem to like that.

So my first stop today was Hankyu Ikeda station, where the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen museum is located. I found that Ikeda had a tourist bureau and an English-language map! Of course, it led me astray, but that was later in the day.

My first stop was Kureha Jinja Shrine. It’s a shrine dedicated to one of two weaving princesses and is popular with those in the apparel business.

I guess you get more than one shrine here as well.

I headed to the instant ramen museum and it was much larger than I expected! 

I saw all sorts of people with instant ramen they’d made in the museum.

A picture of the man! Ando Momofuku!

I think this is a recreation of the shack he had in his backyard where he experimented on making instant ramen.

Seriously, a mad scientist shack. I love this guy.

There were lots of displays showing how he came up with instant ramen and Cup Noodle and then a video presentation of it as well. Then there’s the long line where people get to make their own Cup Noodle.

Actually, you just tell them what to do for the most part and you just draw on the outside of the cup.

There’s even a snack bar with, you guessed it, different types of Cup Noodle!

Upstairs is a kitchen where you can actually make your own instant ramen from scratch. I checked the reservation system and they’re booked all the way into December.

The instant ramen museum was the only place on the map on the south side of the station, so off I went to the north, uphill.

I knew I was lost when I saw something that looked like a castle to my right instead of to my left.

And seriously, down an alley and up a very long and narrow set of stairs.

At the top was just a sign that said, “West Gate.”

I found an impressive park.

And what appeared to be a castle turret.

I found what looked like the main gate. There were a few guys talking about something, and I finally figured out they weren’t talking about how I wasn’t supposed to be there, but about a wild boar. They told me I was at the Ikeda Castle Ruins Park and gave me a map in Japanese which was much clearer but still not very accurate.

My next stop was the Ichizo Kobayashi Memorial Museum. He started the Hankyu Railway.

The map mentioned a restaurant, but I guess you need reservations and there were lots of older ladies dressed up so it probably wasn’t my sort of place.

So off I went towards Ikeda Jinja Shrine, uphill. The neighborhood was weird. Houses bigger than large US houses in between apartment buildings. It all looked pretty fancy. What I didn’t find was any restaurants.

I finally found a Lawson and got a candy bar to tide me over.

This is what I saw otherwise.

Looks like I’m lost, but I”m just heading towards Ikeda Jinja Shrine.

Every time I see stairs like this I just hope I’m headed the right way. When I got to the top of these, I saw a little old lady from earlier. I guess I didn’t have to go down the slope and up these steps.

At the top of the steps was a pre-school group but the moms didn’t know where the shrine was. Fortunately a construction worker did and he opined behind him and I popped out here.

The shrine is actually behind me, but this is a picture of the gates down the slope.

The main gate.

A side shrine.

Ikeda Jinja Shrine is dedicated to the other weaving princess, Ayaha. The main shrine building was built in the early 19th century!

And two more shrines on the grounds.

 A closer view of the center of the grounds.

And here’s the main building built in the early 1800’s.

I figured out where all the kids wet coming from. Up beyond this gate was a zoo!

I headed downhill, back towards the station.

This is the “Big Harp” bridge.

Ikeda Gofuku-za Theatre which was originally established in 1892 but was gone in 80 years.

Across the street is the Rakugo Museum. It’s mainly a spoken form of art, comic storytelling, so there’s not all that much there but a video library and a stage.

There’s also a Billiken which confuses me.

This is supposed to be a sake brewery, and all I saw were empties outside.

I was starving and it was past 2PM so that meant most restaurants would be closed. I went down the shopping street looking for something.

I found a coffee roaster, and went upstairs to get some coffee at the very least.

My coffee took twelve minutes to arrive! Fortunately, it was very smooth and tasty.

I also got a snack of Japanese sweets and some vanilla ice cream with black honey.

Then it was off to head back to Itami, where I used to work. On the way, I first found what I think is Kodo Jinja.

The main shrine.

And down the row of gates to the side shrine.


Of course I ran into other shrines on the way, like this tiny one.

I also saw this weird building. I’m not sure if you can see the giant screws in the ramps.

And, in the middle of nowhere, what I thought was Kamo Jinja.

There’s a long path to the shrine.

This is just an odd name for a restaurant.

I’m getting close! This was “my” gas station!

If you’ve ever noticed the big scar on my left knee, this is the curve where I fell off my motorcycle and gave myself that scar.

My old apartment building.

The ditch where the drunk construction worker shoved me.

As was on my way here, to the vending machine in front of the book store (no longer there) to buy some, ahem, magazines.

I saw my co-workers. Mr. Hayashi (on the right) was on his way to his own going-away party so he just stopped by for a minute. On the left is my friend Shohei Moriwaki. Mr. Hayashi is quitting since he figured he’d retire soon anyway.

And finally, Mr. Hirose (another ham), Mr. Moriwaki, Mr. Shinsou, me, and Mr. Abe. Mr. Moriwaki works for Mitsubishi. The rest transferred to Renesas. Mr. Hirose is quitting, Mr. Shinsou is not, and Mr. Abe is “transferring” to another sub-company of Mitsubishi’s.

So there’s my adventures for the day. Time to hit the hay (it’s about 12:30AM now).

Japan Day 34

I was dragging again today and it was a rainy day anyway. My mom suggested that I hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door and go back to sleep. I figured I’d go walking the underground a while.

One of the first things I saw was people lining up in the basement of the Hanshin Department store to get the cheap cake. I forget why there’s cheap cake, whether it’s oddly shaped or if they just sell a bunch of them for cheap.

Anyway, I had no idea what I was doing so the first thing I did was head towards Hep Five. And what did I run into? Whity Umeda!

And the first things I saw in Whity Umeda? Beard Papa and Baskin Robbins! (Actually the first thing I saw was a store selling traditional Japanese sweets, but that doesn’t make for as good a story.)

I didn’t actually go INTO Hep Five, because, well, I’m an idiot. And I had more time to kill. While I was there, I thought I’d try looking for our favorite green tea sweets shop. But what I found were new restaurants with a new underground river! Turns out the store I was looking for is BEHIND this store. It’s still there.

So this is in the northeast of the underground and I thought I’d go to the southwest where I was two days ago and where it was all shuttered up.

But I started getting tired and stopped at Chococro, in the middle of everything (pretty much) and had a coffee. I had to ask the woman like a retard what the strongest coffee was and she just didn’t understand what I was asking. So, for the second day in a row, I felt like I was getting in an argument about something completely stupid. I just didn’t want a weak-ass cup of coffee (again). I was in a much better mood after the coffee (especially since the girl running the coffee machine gave me and the girl on the cash register some advice on coffee).

Turns out the area towards the southwest isn’t shuttered up during the week. Lots of businessmen and stores.

Hell, I don’t know where I’m taking pictures any more. I think this is where I decided that I was going to follow the road to the far northeast again.

Sometime in the middle of all of this, I went back to Hep Five and, stupidly, sent Facebook messages to co-workers and got some information about next years insurance changes. You have to do it now, and I don’t know how you’re supposed to get it done when you’re on sabbatical. I also heard about some customers and I shouldn’t have asked. Fortunately there are plenty of things to distract you in Japan. Like a giant red whale in Hep Five. And women trying to help direct you to the proper boutique while wearing ridiculous uniforms.

I thought I’d get some lunch and by the time I got closer to the hotel and found a place to get some lunch. The Wired Café sounded annoying, and of course, it was. My phone stopped connecting to the cellular data network and I couldn’t get onto the “free” internet.

Fortunately, the taco rice (not tako rice) was pretty tasty.

I got back to the hotel around 3 or so and decided to take a nap. In fact, I didn’t do a whole lot more today. But I did get into my head that I wasted to get some tonkatsu. I asked the front desk and they sent me from the west side of Umeda past the northeast corner of Umeda to Chayamachi. I could swear they said Katsukura was in the Apple Rose building. Turns out it’s in the APPLAUSE building.

It was a serious tonkatsu restaurant. They give you goma (sesame) in a mortar and you grind it.

Then you add two types of sauce. And no matter how hard I try, I take a fuzzy picture.

On the way here I was thinking I haven’t had much seafood. I won’t point out the baby octopus in one of my previous pictures, but that and some fried shrimp are probably the only seafood I’ve had.

I had this exact same combination in Tokyo but I think this was a little better.

Tomorrow I’m meeting some old co-workers. The company that Mitsubishi turned into through mergers of several different companies is finally cutting back on all the factories they own and a lot of them are quitting or getting laid off. This may be my last chance to see a lot of them! In any case, I don’t know what else I’m going to do. Maybe see the Ando instant ramen museum? Or see what my cousin’s kid’s new house looks like?

Apart from the arguing, I do like Osaka best.

Japan Day 33

I was tired this morning because it turns out the rail noise on the “view” side of this hotel is really loud. Makes sense, because there’s lots of rail switches right in front of the hotel. I had to get my room changed. Otherwise, I slept OK.

Today was a hot day in Osaka, though not as hot as weather.com was saying. It was hot enough. Oddly, the people here were still dressed for the season, not for the day. I was sweating in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt and there were people wearing sweatshirts and vests.

I really didn’t know what to do, but I did start the day by making some phone calls. Nothing really panned out for today but I do have a tour of the Suntory Yamazaki distillery scheduled for next Monday. My mom’s calendar won’t go on sale until next month.

I figured it was scotch day and went looking for Bar Satoh that Barry Eisler mentions in his John Rain novels. His address isn’t quite right but I figured out where it probably is. The street-view picture is a little odd, so I decided to go walk to it during the day to see if I could find it.

The first new thing I ran into was the new Hankyu Department store. This was all under construction last year and looks great.

I walked right by the HEP Five building that my sister and I have been talking about.

Down some shopping streets that weren’t really on the way. They were open, though, which is a good sign.

This is a picture of an urban temple. I didn’t go to many temples today because, well, I’m pretty temple’d out.

There were some interesting buildings on the way.

And more shopping streets than I was expecting.

The route goes across Okawa River to an area with lots of huge apartment buildings.

Oh, and there was a river boat on the river.

There was a large hospital, and across from the hospital was Miyakojima shrine.

This is looking back down one of the last turns I made.

Onto a street with even more huge apartment buildings.

Down to a quiet neighborhood.

First left turn after the runner.

The light blue fence is the same in the picture before and after.

This is the building that fixing Barry Eisler’s address led me to.

Sure enough, if you look closely, there’s a sign that says Bar Satoh. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere and I wonder how Barry Eisler found it. He did work for the CIA so I’m not really sure I want to know, but this looks like the kind of bar that’s a secret to everyone but the neighborhood.

I started walking south towards Osaka Castle. It wasn’t all that interesting. Kind of light industrial and residential with not many stores. I also kind of got lost trying to cross the Neyagawa River and what I think is the Daini Neyagawa River.

About the time I had to find a bathroom (for the usual reason and to wash some pigeon poop off my had), I saw a Mickey D’s. I was about resigned to eat at the Mickey D’s when I saw a Mr. Donut! I’ve been meaning to go see if they still had rice flour doughnuts (they didn’t) so I had one of their October pumpkin doughnuts. I even got a refill on my coffee! There were several pudgy white guys in suits there too. They just kind of stood out in an odd sort of way.

The Mr. Donut was in the Osaka Business Park, across from the Osaka Castle.

The park around Osaka Castle is pretty huge.

You go past two moats to the inner area and the area around the castle is pretty big as well, housing a museum and the castle.

Hōkoku Shrine is also on the grounds.

There’s a statue of an important Japanese guy who I don’t know on the grounds of the shrine.

I started heading towards Nipponbashi and the electric shops that were there when I lived in Japan (20 years ago!) The first thing I saw was Osaka Museum connected to NHK Osaka. The main display was gold statues from the Ukraine, so I kept going.

 On the way down Matsuyamachisuji there was a small shrine, Ikutama Jinja, in between buildings.

Then it was down the street, going over some large intersections on pedestrian bridges.

There were odd stores along the way. Nanshin Bussan is supposed to be an importer of jewelry, but it looked like a store full of cloth for suits.

Then the stores got weirder. This store has a guy riding a giant gold koi. It looked like a store of traditional Japanese dolls. I wondered if I should go buy one and have it sent directly to Goodwill since that’s where I’ve been taking all my traditional Japanese dolls.

Then there were lots of stores with toys and, oddly enough, Christmas decorations.

More decorations.

And more decorations.

A sign advertising Christmas decorations.

This store, like many of the others on this street, has a flag advertising fireworks but was mainly selling Christmas decorations. The sign says Japanese dolls, fireworks, and Christmas stuff.

Another thriving shopping street.

This is a view back up the street with all the Christmas decorations after seeing several more stores, one full of the kind of toys you can only get at festivals and two with Gundam models that said, “WHOLESALE ONLY,” I figured out this must be the wholesale toy neighborhood. i was careful to stay on this street because I didn’t want to get sidetracked by the Nakadera area where the map shows 22 temples. Probably more.

Here’s a picture I saw on the pedestrian bridge, right before Ikukunitama Shrine.

Going through this gate, by the way, is not the best way to get to the shrine.

I’ve taken a lot of pictures of gates, and sub shrines, but this shrine was something else. Here’s the main shrine.

This first panorama is the path to a couple of sub shrines but if you follow the path to the left…

You ned up in this park with six more shrines. It confused me.

After that I got really lost looking for what I remembered of Den-Den Town in Nipponbashi. I got really lost. I did go by the National Bunraku Theatre where I have to go get my mom’s calendar, but that’s not for several more weeks. I was wandering around looking for some electronics shops but they were mostly gone and replaced by the same sorts of crap that Akihabara is full of. Ah, well, I headed back towards the hotel, knowing I’d have to eventually take the subway.

I did see the giant mechanical crab on the way.

And some cops in front of a giant dragon.

Or is this the giant crab?

And what the hell is this?

A ferris wheel at Don Quixote, which I think is a discount store.

After that it was braving the crowds (which are not nearly as bad as Tokyo) to get back to the hotel. Dinner was back at Yodobashi Camera where I unsuccessfully searched for some Japan-only North Face stuff for my sister. I saw somewhere advertising REAL Kobe Beef hamburgers, so I had one. I’m not sure it was worth ¥1,370 ($17.17) since it was just OK.

And there you go. I’m not sure what I’m doing tomorrow, since it’s supposed to rain. Maybe explore all the underground some more. I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

Japan Day 32

I got up early to get ready to go to Osaka today. I’m not sure why I bothered, since I did a lot of putzing around and then realized it’s less than an hour from Nagoya to Osaka on the Shinkansen. And the Shinkansen station at Nagoya is small and very, very close to the Toyoko Inn.

Well, fortunately, I’m feeling comfortable here in Osaka (since I did live here in my 20’s and even got engaged). Maybe a bit too comfortable. I’ve eaten too much and feel like passing out. Fortunately the intarwebs are a normal speed here and my pictures are uploading quickly so I won’t have to stay up late to wait for that.

There’s this tea I’ve seen the past two days that has the big characters describing what type of tea it is. Yesterday I had “SHIZU” or Shizuoka tea. Today is “KYO” or Kyoto green tea. I looked carefully and it’s special tea that they make for JR.

I got to the hotel at 11:30AM, way before the 2PM check-in time. I spent an hour in the hotel lobby (free wifi) and in the station near the tourist information bureau trying to figure out where to go today. I usually sit in front of my computer all morning trying to figure that out. I finally decided just to start walking south, towards the Bunraku Theatre since I promised my mom I’d get her a calendar there. I called and found out that the person who knows about that stuff isn’t working today, but I figured I’d go anyway.

On the way through the station, I saw a couple of Asian guys that looked a bit off and I just started talking to them in English. They were lost and North American and I actually knew where they needed to go. After helping them down into the weird subterranean world that is Umeda, I kept heading south. This whole area always seems shuttered up.


Up into the sunlight and down southward ho!

There were lots of sculptures of naked women on the route. I’m not sure what the deal with the sculptor is.

Across several rivers, too.

Past the sculpture of some old-timey Japanese dude.

And down the street with lots of empty office buildings. But oddly enough, every few buildings there’d be a store or series of stores open. I saw a bunch of people waiting to get into Butter Pancake and it was 1PM and I was hungry.

Here’s where I was waiting for my $20 pancake.

I can’t tell you how good this pancake was. The coffee was tasty too. That’s a block of creme brûlée on the pancake too.

Around the corner was a coffee shop that looks interesting as well. It seemed odd that there were all sorts of people going into building in an otherwise empty neighborhood.

These three guys came out of the coffee shop.

Then it was off to find Goryō Shrine, as the map said it was close by.

The main shrine.

Two sub-shrines.

Looks like this shrine is popular enough to have an electric sign.

Off in the distance I saw a huge old Japanese roof, so I had to go see what that was.

It was Osaka Kaikan, undergoing repairs.

Then I headed back to the hotel. On the way I saw these dragon boats, but they were being towed!

Big blocky government building.

Old-timey government building I’ve seen on the TV news.

I got back to the hotel using an underground route. Looks like the old convenience store that they tore down is back again.

I went to Yodobashi Camera for dinner. There’s used to be one-and-a-half dining floors and they were fixing them up the last time I was here. Now there’s only one floor. I picked the diner by picking a semi-long line for food that looked good. The place I picked also had all-you-can-eat bread which was a mistake.

I had something called a fondue hamburger or something. It was tasty. If I lost any weight with all my walking, I’m going to regain it in Osaka.

I found my favorite t-shirt shop and bought a couple more t-shirts (the weird Japanese ones I always wear) and then went to drool at the same watch I always drool over (a Grand Seiko). The price is down a couple of thousand dollars, but that still means it’s several thousand dollars. I’ll go drool on it a couple more times, I’m sure.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be hotter than it was when I was in Tokyo! I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with that.

Oh, and finally, I’m a cheap bastard and I’ve been carrying two pain-in-the-ass umbrellas, each costing ¥105, from Tokyo. I FORGOT THEM ON THE TRAIN TODAY. Plus I carried my leftover laundry detergent from Tokyo and the washing machines at this hotel automatically dispense soap! (On the plus side, the washer and dryer are industrial-sized at this hotel and it only took 30 minutes to wash and 15 minutes to dry my clothes!)

Japan Day 31

I just realized why the intarwebs could be slow here. They have ¥500 video-on-demand and all the businessmen were probably watching pr0n as I tried to upload my pictures. I’m going to be up late again uploading all this again, I’m sure. I didn’t end up going to Nagoya Castle or to the shrine that seems to hold one of the three treasures of the Imperial Family. There’s lots more to see here than I saw.

The first place I went was the Toyota Museum. I got on the subway and bought a ¥600 all-day pass you can get on the weekends and started going the wrong way. I didn’t have much luck with the subways today. When I got off at the right station, the map set me off down in a direction that didn’t look museum-like.

The temple on the way was tiny, too.

I think I took this picture by accident, in front of the tiny temple.

The first thing you see in the Toyota museum is a huge circular loom. Toyota started out as a textile machinery company.

As you go in there are several cotton thread spinning demonstrations and the main loom Toyota designed and patented.

Then it goes into thread spinning throughout the ages and the display is huge.

There’s huge industrial machines for carding and spinning the thread.

The whole hall is huge. I swear I spent an hour looking at different shuttle technology for looms.

Some of the looms were huge.

This loom uses air instead of a shuttle to get the thread across. I didn’t take a picture of the loom that used water instead of a shuttle.

There whole factory is turned into a museum so there’s lots of space for the automobile museum as well. I didn’t spend as much time in the automobile museum because I’m familiar with lots of the automotive and metal working technology from high school.

I didn’t take pictures of the displays describing engines or gears or brakes or fuel injection or anything I already knew about.

There were kid areas as well and I took pictures of this set of gearboxes that you used to get the wheel connected to the kinetic ball machine.

The gears go on the floor between these two. This was in a side-building and there were even more kid attractions in the main building.

After that it was off to the MAGLEV and Railway Park at the end of a random train line.

The first room has dramatic lighting and has three trains, a locomotive and two maglev mock-ups. I was hoping this wasn’t the whole thing because the first room was just crap besides the locomotive.

Beyond the first room was another larger room full of real trains! Lots of models of bullet train as well as old trains. This is the original model Shinkansen and there’s a placard with the date so you can take a picture and remember when you were there (10/20/2012 for me).

Several styles of Shinkansen trains.

Older trains, a long-distance train on the left and a standard train on the right. The old model train would tilt and could go 80kph. The Shinkansen goes in the 200’s.

Some engines, some sleeper cars.

This is a special bullet train used to monitor track and wire conditions.

These are old long-distance trains.

Really old trains. I think the ED 11 2 is imported from England.

The looks similar to the Tokyo Chuo line trains.

I went out to the smoking lounge just to take a picture of the industrial wasteland that’s across the bay. I shouldn’t say wasteland; it’s probably just a steel or chemical plant.

And the bridge across the bay.

I had a bento at the train museum. They have the same bentos that they sell at the bullet train stations! I missed eating one on the way from Tokyo to Hamamatsu, so I got one today. It was even more awful when you eat it at 2PM at the train museum rather than noon on the train.

After the train museum I went back to Nagoya station and got back on the subway and got off at the wrong station again. I finally made it to Ōsu Kannon Temple. You can’t tell by this picture but the temple is busy. The building on the left is full off Buddhist statues of the Kannon or Goddess of Mercy. The building to the right is a library that houses ancient texts, including one about how the Japanese people came to be.

The side gate.

The main gate.

Right outside of the temple was a shop selling old Japanese treats. I missed a puppet show because I was buying and eating this.

This next picture is for Eric of a place I found while I was wandering around the area by Ōsu Kannon Temple.

This is a neighborhood shrine I saw.

A smaller shrine right next to the previous one.

This is the Hinode shrine. There were a bunch of guys sitting around drinking beers.

Turns out it was a festival and it was Nagoya day or something. I missed a parade at the station.

For dinner, I had tebasaki, or the famous Nagoya chicken wings. This is how I spent ¥4,240 ($53.47 USD). The flavoring was sweet and peppery and quite good.

I also had Tarzan-yaki.

I also had wing gyoza, where they split and stuffed the chicken wing with gyoza filling.

So that’s it. It took OVER FOUR HOURS to upload these pictures and I went to sleep instead of waiting on the upload. So sorry this is late!